Dear Resurrection People of the Upstate New York Synod,￼
There are many symbols of the Office of Bishop that have deep meaning for me. One is the synod’s pectoral cross. I will place it around the neck of Bishop-elect John Macholz at his installation, as it was placed on mine by Bishop Lee Miller twelve years ago. This cross was purchased at the start of the ELCA and modeled on the ELCA Presiding Bishop’s pectoral cross. Several synods have the same design or similar design. Our synod’s is unique in that at its center is a New York State Garnet (the NYS Stone) instead of the usual amethyst. As I have worn it on visitations, people, especially children, have often commented on its size and weight. It is a reminder that one cannot take the Office of Bishop lightly.
Another sign of office is the crozier. The one I have carried is not carved or fancy. It is not embellished with precious metals. It is a plain wooden staff, reminiscent of the crook carried by shepherds, used to prod, protect and rescue the sheep. This one was handcrafted, not for worship rituals, but for a December party celebrating St. Nicholas Day. Someone fashioned it to go with Bishop Edward Perry’s St. Nicholas costume. It has been “lost and found” more than once, but we can thank Pastor Jack Printzenhoff for rescuing it in a garage sale and putting it to use for a time in Christmas pageants in western NY, before it found its place of honor in the bishop’s office.
What I have most appreciated about this particular crozier is that it is a sign of resurrection all its own. It was originally a broomstick, re-fashioned and re-shaped for its new purpose, much like we are reshaped and remolded as we grow in Christian faith after baptism. It also serves as a reminder that although the Office of Bishop is one of oversight, it is not a place of high rank or honor, as much as it is one of humble serving. And Lord knows there is always plenty of cleaning up to be done.
I am deeply grateful for having had the privilege of wearing the cross and carrying the crozier for a time. I am also thankful to God for all the partners in mission with whom I have walked and worked – those within the Upstate New York Synod, as well as those across the church and around the world. I have done my best in these 12 years (and more) to be an example of servant leadership. Where I have failed I ask forgiveness. Where I have succeeded I give God the glory. I trust that along the way some lives have been changed by the good news of Jesus Christ crucified and risen.
I am humbled and moved by the many expressions of thanks and good wishes that I have received in recent weeks. I give thanks for the gifts that have been given in thanksgiving for my ministry in your midst, especially those that will support the Synod Mission Fund and the ELCA Campaign’s global initiatives. To quote St. Paul,
“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of the Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:3-6
On September 6, I will pass on the cross and the crozier to John as they were once passed on to me. I pray that he will receive them with a sense of their history and a sure and certain hope in the gracious and transforming power of Jesus Christ. I will be praying for him and I ask that you do the same. And I trust that God will bless him in his serving as God has blessed me in mine.
Grace and peace,
Marie C. Jerge
aka “Mama” Bishop
A PDF version of this letter suitable for printing and posting is available here.